Park Resorts Innovates

Some times a totally different approach to a problem delivers a winning solution.

Guests enjoy clean accommodation in Caravans at Park Resorts Lower Hyde on Isle of Wight
Guests enjoy clean accommodation in Caravans at Park Resorts Lower Hyde on Isle of Wight off the coast of Britain.

In the hospitality industry one of the major challenges is maintaining reasonable standards with lower skilled jobs.  In food service, bussers, and dishwashers and in lodging, housekeeping staff are in this category.  Poor service delivery can have a negative effect on customer experience.  We’ve all checked into hotel rooms that we not up to our standards.  Good housekeeping is subjective but the guest’s reaction is all important.

When a guest gives a review that says “Go and sleep on the subway, it’s cleaner” or “A jail cell would have been better than the room we stayed in.” or “Avoid this crack den.” or “NASTY!!” the hotel has clearly missed the mark.  These are Tripadvisor reviews for Hotel Carter in New York.  This property made the review site’s list of dirtiest hotels in America in 2007.  They seem to be steadfastly holding on to this standard.  If you are morbidly curious check it out.  There are 2,787 reviews and 35% the guests rated the hotel “Terrible.”  Click on “Terrible” to filter out the “Average” and “Poor” reviews, and marvel.

Typically, housekeeping jobs are some of the lowest paid positions in hospitality.  For a property that is making a genuine effort it is a challenge to recruit and train people for these positions when one needs to have rooms prepared to a desired standard and in a timely fashion.  For a manager, turnover is an additional challenge.  With high turnover, quality and consistency are difficult to maintain.

One organization that found a solution is Park Resorts in the UK which features “caravan holiday parks.”  The accommodation is in caravans which in North America, would be called a mobile or manufactured home.  They appear to be similar to the cabins at Fort Wilderness at Walt Disney World in Florida.

I first became aware of the company when they were featured on the British version of Undercover Boss.  Andy Edge, the Marketing Director went undercover.  Andy worked in various position at different locations.  Park Resorts have three Holiday Parks on the Isle of Wight, a small island off the coast of the UK.   At Lower Hyde on the Isle of Wight, Andy worked in housekeeping.  The manager of housekeeping at this site was Fiona Page.   Fiona’s approach was to hire the best housekeeping staff she could find and pay them a higher wage.  Rather than having supervisors inspect every room, the number of supervisors was reduced with the understanding that the housekeeping staff were expected to manage themselves and deliver at a high level.

Andy tells me that “we did indeed roll out the model across all our holiday
parks in 2010.  The brand was all about “Creating Amazing Memories” and clearly accommodation cleanliness was key to that.”

Look for different ways to solve challenges in your company.  If the standard solutions done harder or faster aren’t delivering breakthroughs, look for ways to break the old model and construct a new solution.

Loyalty Programs

loyalty cardsI’ve been away from the keyboard for a while; it’s time to get back to this. I’ve had a lot of balls in the air, but I do enjoy writing.  I may be a bit rusty but hope you enjoy the ride.

Loyalty programs can be as simple as a “coffee card” that gets punched every time the customer places an order and allows her to earn a free coffee after a given number of purchases.  The programs can also be sophisticated programs that allow customers to accumulate points at multiple businesses and/or allow the retail partners to gain information on customers’ shopping habits.

With a loyalty program, I am sharing two things to keep in mind.  First, if you have a program commit to it.  Encourage your customers to participate and promote the program at every opportunity.  My personal experience here needs a little background.  Over the past few years I have been purchasing a lot of building material. We are seasonal campers in a family run campground an easy drive from our home.  We’ve been building decks and fences at our campsite. The initial purchase was for a substantial amount of the material. We’ve since been back for odds and ends. After several trips to the same store, on a rather small purchase the clerk asked if I had Aeroplan. Well, I do, and now I am annoyed that I wasn’t asked when I was making the large purchase at the beginning.

If your company participates in a loyal program, instruct staff to ask every time. The reason you participate in these plans is to encourage loyalty. Every time you ask, you are reminding your customer of another reason to keep coming back.

The second point about loyalty programs; view the program from your customer’s point of view, not your own.  A coffee shop owner made a mistake, in my opinion, when he cancelled his coffee card program.  His reason?  He felt he was giving away product he was going to sell anyway.  His concern, he was loosing a sale (which might amount to a couple of dollars) every time he gave the loyal customer the “free” coffee they had earned by being loyal.  After all, these were his regulars, they would have purchased the coffee anyway, right?  Wrong-headed!  I’ve mentioned him earlier, car dealer Carl Sewell says, anything you would do for your best friend your do for your customer because in retail your customer is your best friend.

I hope you find value here and become a loyal visitor, until next time — be outstanding.